PEOPLE's critic weighs in on what to see and what to skip at the movies this weekend.
Thank Asgard not every superhero is channeling Bruce Wayne this year. After some seriously moody interludes with Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 this summer, Thor returns with a funnier, lighter take on saving the universe, just as it's about to be destroyed by the Dark Elves. Somehow, the end of the world doesn't seem so bad when you can get a chuckle out of it.
Of course, Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as the hammer-wielding heir to the Asgardian throne, and as always, he's a fine specimen of an immortal. But even he might not be able to stop the Dark Elves, an ancient, vengeful race led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who are biding their time until the convergence, when all nine realms align, leaving the universe utterly vulnerable. The coming convergence is also making things hinky on Earth, where Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her cohorts notice objects – and people – disappearing from one realm to the next. It all sounds dire, but Thor employs a small army of sidekicks to keep the good times rolling.
First, there's Jane's friend and assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings), spreading snark and mirth while Jane's erstwhile mentor, Erik (Stellan Skarsgard), loses his tenuous grasp on reality, prancing around Stonehenge in the buff. Chris O'Dowd pops up in a hilarious throwaway role as Jane's date Richard (hey, a woman can't wait for her alien lover forever). And then, of course, there's Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
How by Thor's hammer can I reduce that glorious villain to a mere sidekick? Well, there's nothing mere about him, let me assure you. Hiddleston plays Loki as divinely devilish as ever, constantly looking for the angles and chewing whatever scenery dares to get in his way. The catch is that, as a prisoner in an Asgardian clink, Loki is largely sidelined from being the main baddie. But fear not, he gets plenty of screen time to camp it up and create some drama of his own.
Oh, and you want to stick around after the credits – all of the credits. There are two extra scenes for those willing to wait.
And See This, Too:About Time
I've been a fan of Domhnall Gleeson's for a while as he charmed audiences in everything from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to True Grit and Anna Karenina. But hopefully, About Time will deliver him the legions of fans he deserves. Gleeson plays Tim, an amiable British lawyer with a secret: Men in his family can travel back in time – but only within their own lifetimes. In other words, they can replay perfect moments, fix the awful ones, and otherwise revel in the beauties of each and every day.
That becomes quite the handy trick when Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), a lovely American with whom he immediately hits it off, but whose number he promptly loses. A few complications later, and Tim and Mary won't just have one rom-com "meet cute," but several, as he keeps trying to get it right. Yes, it's a touch manipulative to convince a woman to fall in love based on a series of impossibly perfect interludes, but About Time, from the writer and director of Love Actually, keeps things from getting creepy. Instead, the romance plays as swoon-worthy, funny and poignant, with a leading man who's absolutely adorable.
Naomi Watts is a lovely actress, but even she can't elevate this shallow production about the last great love in Princess Diana's life. The story follows Di's romance with Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), a Pakistani cardiologist who captures her heart. Good luck figuring out why, since the film doesn't offer any rationale for their love, other than he's hot and she was exciting. In fact, it's largely about Khan's reluctance to be in a relationship with the most famous woman in the world. There's new information here for most of us who didn't follow the British tabloids in the years before Diana died, but for the rest it's a pass.